Inspirational youth worker Barbara bids farewell
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AFTER over a quarter of a century of inspiring and supporting young people in the Buckie area, it was time to take a well-deserved stroll to retirement for senior youth worker Barbara Leitch.
The end of term brought the curtain down on 26 years of dedication and commitment to, not to mention belief in, young people.
Based at Buckie Community High School for many years, Barbara was also the driving force behind many other youth ventures, including the Quines' Club which she worked with for a grand total of 21 years.
Working with young people proved to be something of a calling which could not be ignored for Barbara. While living in Fort William she started a toddlers group and although she worked as a travel agent for a number of years was eventually to return to the youth work fold on a permanent basis.
Barbara said: "I actually made the decision to retire back in January.
"It's sad to finally be calling it a day but the time felt right to go.
"I intentionally kept my last week busy so I wouldn't have time to dwell on things and it just flew past. It's been a weird time, in many ways – working from home a lot, all the Covid restrictions in place for youth work.
"Covid changed the rules so much and we all had to get a whole new set of skills, including using social media in new ways.
"For me one of the big realisations from lockdown is just how much young people really do miss human contact even though they engage a lot with social media and digital formats. The way forward after all this Covid situation is over is finding the best mix of the two.
"There's many issues, though, which are longer term, they won't be addressed today or tomorrow."
Barbara has won respect down the years for not only inspiring young people to challenge themselves and often become what they never thought was possible, but to significantly widen the boundaries of recognition for achievement.
"I'm very proud of the work we all did in embracing accreditation for young people for things they achieved outside the classroom," she continued.
"I felt so many young people came into their own when they had these opportunities.
"We were very lucky that Buckie High very much bought into this making for a great partnership.
"Listening to young people is very important in this job. For example, the P7 drop-ins which are part of Buckie High's transition programme was an idea which came from the young people themselves to help ease the step between primary and secondary. It is now held up across the country as national good practice.
"You have to have enthusiasm, be open to new ideas, be a good communicator and be a good listener. Above all you've got to be genuine – you'll soon get found out if you aren't!
"I loved every minute of it."
With more time on her hands Barbara will be able to focus on some of the other important areas in her life, not least her crafting and, when Covid restrictions ease, singing with Buckie Choral Union.
"I'm hoping to do some travelling when I canand basically enjoy life in general," she added.
One of those on hand to wish her well in her new endeavours was long-time colleague and youth work lead Fiona Herd.
"I've worked with Barbara for over 20 years now, going back to my arts development days.
"She's made a huge impression on generations of young folk who have her to thank for a lot of things. Many young people have become involved with their community through her projects and by taking part in events like the Buckie Christmas Kracker.
"She helped them value other people and be valued themselves."
The ultimate accolade for any youth worker must be when one of their former charges follows in their footsteps, which is just what happened with colleague Iona MacPherson.
She said: "Barbara inspired me to go on and become a youth worker myself after I left school.
"I first knew her from when I was in the Quines' Club and it's been great to have worked beside her."